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Feb. 15: Stressed out, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Stress of behaviour

We’re not surprised at the findings of the latest study on boys’ achievement reported in Margaret Wente’s column Boys Will Be Boys – Schools Need To Understand That (Feb. 14). Our schools teach in a style that reinforces those “virtues” that are nurtured in girls but aren’t always successful with boys.

Here’s a typical case: Mom calls our office looking for help for her eight-year-old Grade 3 boy. The teacher says he’s causing trouble in class. What we usually find is that the boy is also falling behind in his reading skills. Fix the reading; fix the behaviour.

Maybe it’s time to encourage same-sex schools that use effective teaching practices for girls without sacrificing boys.

Doretta Wilson, executive director, Society for Quality Education, Toronto

Stress of stress

There should be a difference between “not surprised” and “not concerned” when it comes to interpreting the results of the latest Toronto District School Board survey on teens’ emotional well-being (Report Of Teen Stress Shouldn’t Cause Alarm – Feb. 14).

As an adolescent psychiatrist, I, too, wasn’t surprised by the high rates of anxiety/worry reported in the survey. But when the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s David Wolfe says the results reflect “normal” feelings, I think we’re heading down a dangerous (and outdated) path of attributing serious problems to “normal” teenage angst.

It isn’t normal (even if it’s common) to lose sleep because of one’s worries. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of clinical depression. The challenge is how to distinguish those students who are at high risk of developing clinical disorders from those whose emotional upset is more transient and reactive. This survey doesn’t provide the data to allow that kind of analysis.

But it’s a useful wake-up call for adults: Pay attention to students’ distress; it could be a sign of serious mental health problems lurking beneath the surface.

Marshall Korenblum, chief psychiatrist, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre for Children and Families, Toronto

Sick-lit symptoms

If the criteria on which we judge the books that “young adults” should read are based on sensitive themes such as depression and suicide, then Russell Smith should be prepared to kiss their “officially approved” reading list goodbye (Sick-Lit: A Symptom Of Publishing’s Decline? – Life & Arts, Feb. 14).

Last time I checked, Hamlet was a manic depressive, Romeo and Juliette were involved in a star-crossed relationship whose ending is too obvious to mention, and Willy Loman was driven to suicide because of the hardships of a disillusioned life.

“Sick-lit” doesn’t exist, but the themes and struggles these books portray sure do.

Alexander Moorhouse-Reaume, Windsor, Ont.

Bell tolls for thee

The Mental Health Commission of Canada chose to publicly acknowledge Bell’s “Let’s Talk Day” as an opportunity to open conversations about mental health and mental illness across the country and to raise funds that, ultimately, go to improved understanding and treatment of people with mental illness.

Bell Canada has demonstrated commitment, passion and generosity toward a cause that had no corporate champions – and from the outset, it said clearly that one of its goals was to mobilize other players in corporate Canada to join in common cause.

The cynicism in your article about Bell’s goals in this sustained effort (Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ Campaign Cashes In – Report on Business, Feb. 14) obscures and undermines an unprecedented commitment by a major corporation to do something substantive to improve the lives of Canadians affected by mental illness.

David S. Goldbloom, chair, and Louise Bradley, president and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Ottawa


As Canadian business leaders and co-chairs of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Transforming Lives campaign – the largest such fundraising campaign in Canada – we can tell you that, thanks to Bell, mental health discussion is now taking place on the front pages of our newspapers, in the boardroom, around the dinner table and in the minds of those making donations.

Bell is “walking the walk.” It has invested in mandatory training for all managers in identifying and supporting employees with mental health issues. It has invested significant corporate dollars in mental health causes from coast to coast and is challenging us all to do more to address the most significant health issue of our time.

Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign amplifies Bell’s corporate philanthropy by generating additional funds, by attacking stigma and, more important, by engaging the public. Every text and every tweet is transforming lives.

Michael McCain, Jamie Anderson and Tom Milroy, campaign co-chairs, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

Fair? Not so fast

Your editorial Give Due Credit To Barrick Gold (Feb. 13) remarkably proclaims that the deal Barrick is offering women who were gang-raped by employees of its Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea “seems fair.”

In return for “counselling, access to micro-credit and medical care,” Barrick requires that a rape victim “will not pursue or participate in any legal action” against the company “in or outside” of Papua New Guinea.

This deal is neither fair nor best practice. What Barrick is offering is not an out-of-court settlement. These indigenous women, who are poor and have very low levels of education, have not benefited from any of the protections offered by a court of law – and if they take what Barrick is offering them, they never will.

Catherine Coumans, research co-ordinator, MiningWatch Canada, Ottawa

Wind power

Re Canada 9th In World For Wind Power (Feb. 12): With a lineup that includes John Baird, Conrad Black, Don Cherry, Celine Dion and Howie Mandel, how can we possibly be only ninth?

Tim Jeffery, Toronto

Zombie attack

Zombies were on the march this week, resulting in broadcast warnings that ranged from the U.S. Emergency Alert System (U.S. Officials Not Laughing About Warnings Of Zombie Attacks – Feb.14) to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s advising the House of Commons that “Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies, ever.”

Let’s pray this discussion on the living dead doesn’t make it into the Senate, or the consequences could be grave.

David Sidebottom, Toronto

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